Credit fraud in the mail

By Joanne Carroll

Man charged with using cards he stole from letterboxes.

Robert Famularo. Photo / Getty Images
Robert Famularo. Photo / Getty Images

A man has been charged with almost 300 counts of credit card fraud against some well-heeled Aucklanders.

Adam Matthew Brown allegedly used 12 credit cards to rack up 284 purchases.

Police allege the credit cards belonged to 12 people living in the upmarket Auckland suburb of Remuera who did not receive their new credit cards in the mail.

The 29-year-old allegedly took the new credit cards, activated them and used them at shops and restaurants around Auckland until the credit card companies cancelled the cards.

The transactions ranged from $1.50 parking tickets to $1573 on a computer and came to a total of less than $50,000.

The alleged offending happened in 2008 and 2009.

Glass company and racehorse owner Robert Famularo, who lives on Remuera Rd, claims his American Express card was stolen from his letterbox in April 2009.

"I remember an issue with the credit card because I never received my new card when my old one expired. It seems that it had been stolen in the mail and the credit card company sorted it out," he said.

Brown allegedly used Famularo's card for transactions including $151 at a liquor store and $940 at bump-and-grind bar Showgirls.

Staples Rodway Ltd Accounting owner Phil Pavis said his new card had also been used at Showgirls after it went missing in the post. He also lives in Remuera.

Transactions included $1040 at Showgirls and $677 at EB Games.

"The bank did not believe me at first. Because it's classic that a man would try to blame somebody else for money spent on gentlemen's services. I had the perfect alibi though because I could prove I was actually out of the country on those dates so the bank accepted my side," he said.

A retired company director, David Fisher, said his letterbox was damaged at the time his card was due for renewal.

"My letterbox is secure and the first time in 16 years it had ever been broken into was when my new credit card was in it," he said.

Fisher's card was used in August 2009 at places including appliance stores, and $550 on home brewing equipment.

One credit card account in the name of Arthur Woodhouse was used at four outlets in September 2008, including $233 at Pak'nSave and $400 at a computer store.

Sir Owen Woodhouse, whose first name is Arthur and lives on Remuera Rd, said he had not been ripped off and he knew nothing about the charges.

The 95-year-old World War II veteran, former Appeal Court and Supreme Court judge is best known for designing our accident compensation scheme.

Brown is also charged with using a Meadowbank woman's card at 100 outlets in September 2008.

He also allegedly withdrew $3300 from another man's credit card at an ATM in Royal Oak. He was remanded in custody and will reappear in the Auckland District Court on November 13.

Card check limits spend-ups by mail thieves

Credit card companies are confident they have the measures to combat most credit card fraud.

Each bank has slightly different security processes but most cards have to be verified before being used.

Banking Ombudsman Deborah Battell said credit card theft from mail boxes was a real problem in the early 2000s.

"From about 2004, however, banks began to introduce card activation, and this appears to have been successful in significantly reducing this type of offending. We have not recently received complaints about this type of offending," she said.

Banks also mail out credit cards in plain, unbranded envelopes.

Customers were not liable for fraudulent use of their cards provided they did not disclose their PIN and took care with their card. In instances where the card has been stolen and the PIN has not been disclosed, banks usually cover any transactions.

Visa's country risk director Ian McKindley said only a small amount of fraud resulted from cards stolen from the mail.

However it's good practice for cardholders to put a lock on their letterboxes to prevent mail theft.

Visa cardholders were covered under Visa's zero liability policy, which means cardholders are not liable for unauthorised purchases.

- NZ Herald

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